Predictions 101 — Orange Bowl

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No. 13 Florida State vs. No. 16 Northern Illinois
Tues., Jan. 1 – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Miami, Fla. – Sun Life Stadium

You’re likely not familiar with the Huskies. We’ll try to get you up to speed.

Northern Illinois (12-1) is the eighth team from a non-automatic qualifying conference to participate in the BCS, and the first from the Mid-American Conference. (Excited yet?)

Since opening the season with a 18-17 loss to Iowa, the Huskies have won 12 games in a row, capped off by a 44-37 double-overtime victory over Kent State in the MAC title game. (Are you liking this rather than being introduced to the Golden Flashes?)

Oddly enough, NIU won’t be coached by the man who brought them to this unlikely point and one has to wonder if Dave Doeren, who ditched the Huskies to accept an offer from N.C. State, will ever coach in a BCS bowl. (We say: “Nope.”)

Somebody who will be there is Husky quarterback Jordan Lynch, who rushed for less than 107 yards only once this season. The multi-dimensional junior also passed for nearly 3,000 yards, completed 63 percent of his passes and tossed 24 touchdowns, against only five interceptions. Against Toledo, this dude threw for 407 yards and ran for 162. If you’ve ever heard of anybody else doing anything of the sort, you’re wrong.

Win or lose — and there’s probably no way to avoid “lose” — he’s the only reason to tune in to this one.

Florida State (11-2) is destined to play uninspired ball. The loss to Florida on Nov. 24 sapped the Seminoles of their mojo. You could see that in their lackluster 21-15 victory over Georgia Tech in the ACC title game.

If the BCS bowl rotation was something different and FSU got paired against a marquee program, it would have proudly risen to the occasion. The ‘Noles might even need to fall behind to get jolted into action.

Opening point spread: Florida State by 14

The pick: Florida State 26-20

Click HERE to get predictions for the remaining bowl games.

Utah evaluating potential upgrades to Rice-Eccles Stadium

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It may be hard to believe, but Utah has just completed its sixth year in the Pac-12. Now, after benefitting from an increased conference revenue compared to their days in the Mountain West Conference, Utah appears to be ready to dig in and explore the possibility of expanding Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The University of Utah announced today the school is putting together a feasibility study to expand the south end zone of Rice-Eccles Stadium. Among the details to figure out include how much it may cost, who it will be funded and whether or not there is a market for such an expansion in the first place. Given the move to the Pac-12 a little more than half a decade ago and the success of making the transition with a more attractive regular season schedule, it stands to reason there is potential for a stadium expansion to take advantage of.

“Understanding the market, costs and feasibility will help us better prepare for the future of the stadium,” said President David W. Pershing in a released statement. “There’s still much work to be done before taking steps toward renovation. We have to know if the market will support this kind of expansion.”

Rice-Eccles Stadium opened its doors in 1998 after a complete rebuild of the original stadium structure that was Rice Stadium. One of the only portions of the stadium that was left largely untouched between the transition of the stadium was the south end zone. This is where Utah wants to explore renovation plans for the most part. If the hypothetical project goes through, Utah will rebuild the locker rooms, equipment storage and media rooms as well as medical treatment areas. Of course, the school will also evaluate possibilities for luxury seating for fans and donors and concession area upgrades. Among those fan amenities under consideration is connecting the east and west concourses.

Rice-Eccles Stadium currently has a listed seating capacity of 45,807. It has a sellout streak of 38 games, with 35 going above the official maximum capacity, according to Utah Athletics.

Former LSU QB Brandon Harris announces commitment to UNC

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Former LSU quarterback Brandon Harris has found himself a new home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Harris announced via Facebook and Twitter he has chosen to commit to North Carolina.

“Obviously, it has been an important time for me, looking for a great situation and another opportunity to grow as a young man and as a student as well as a football player,” Harris said in his statement. “After my [official] visit this weekend to the University of North Carolina, I’m going to get that opportunity. With that being said, I’m fully committed to UNC this upcoming year and I look forward to the opportunity to play for coach [Larry Fedora] and UNC.”

Harris will be eligible to play for UNC immediately this fall after graduating from LSU this summer, and the timing may not be better for Harris. UNC is losing its starting quarterback (Mitch Trubisky) to the NFL and has a wide open spot to fill in the starting lineup as a result. But the job will not automatically go to Harris upon his arrival at UNC after missing out on spring practices at North Carolina.

Harris played in just four games last season, in which he passed for 139 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. Since the season-opener against Wisconsin, Harris was reduced to backup duty and did not play in any of LSU’s seven final games of the 2016 season, including the bowl game against Louisville. Harris announced his decision to transfer in February, which was pretty much expected given how last season played out amid a coaching change.

Report: Foot injury puts Georgia WR Riley Ridley on sideline for spring

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Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley has not been practicing this spring, but it has nothing to do with his offseason misdemeanor from a couple of weeks ago. Instead, a foot injury appears to have sidelined Ridley for the spring.

According to a report from Gridiron Now, Ridley has been out due to the foot injury. When the foot injury occurred is not reported. Even if his foot was not injured, it remains unknown if Ridley would be participating int he spring, at least at this point. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has said Ridley will be internally disciplined for his misdemeanor pot possession from earlier this month.

“He’ll receive discipline,” Smart said. “We are very disappointed in his decision. We do not condone that behavior. I think Riley is going to learn a valuable lesson from this mistake.”

When Ridley may be available again remains unknown, as does what exactly the punishment to him will be from Smart. A one-game suspension is the expected result for Ridley according to the university’s student-athlete handbook.

USF DB Hassan Childs in stable condition after overnight shooting incident

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USF defensive back Hassan Childs was injured in a shooting incident overnight. Fortunately, Childs is currently said to be in stable condition, according to USF.

“We are deeply concerned that an incident occurred overnight in which one of our guys, Hassan Childs, was injured in a shooting,” a statement from USF head coach Charlie Strong said. “Thankfully, Hassan is in stable condition and being well cared for, and no one else was injured. There is an ongoing investigation of the incident and we are in the process of gathering further information.”

The shooting took place off campus, but details about the incident have not been reported.

Childs played in eight games for the Bulls last year. He recorded 16 tackles and returned two punts for three yards in a backup role.